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Top 10 Comic Book Decisions That Backfired

VO: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Nick Miller
The Big Two aren’t always known for their uncanny decisionmaking. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today, we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 comic book decisions that backfired. For this list, we’ll be looking at decisions in comics made to attract attention and potentially boost sales, but were not well-received.
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The Big Two aren’t always known for their uncanny decisionmaking. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today, we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 comic book decisions that backfired.

For this list, we’ll be looking at decisions in comics made to attract attention and potentially boost sales, but were not well-received.

#10: Ms. Marvel's Pregnancy


This controversial decision made by a group of Marvel writers in 1980 occurred in the pages of “Avengers,” and saw Carol Danvers impregnated mysteriously. After just a few issues, Carol gives birth to what quickly becomes a full-grown man. The man, known as Marcus, explained that, through time travel and mind-manipulating technology, he brought Carol to the other dimension known as limbo and “seduced” her so she could birth him into the material world. Um, gross. that is sexual assault. Nowadays, this story would never make it to print, but it did in 1980, and people were justifiably creeped out by the events.

#9: Hal Jordan Becomes Parallax


After a series of events kicked off by the death of a certain major DC hero, Hal Jordan’s home of Coast City was decimated during an attack by the powerful alien Mongul. This caused Hal to go insane and massacre nearly the entire Green Lantern Corps. Hal adopted the moniker Parallax, and became a villain, with Kyle Rayner taking over as the new Lantern. This massive character shift for the long-tenured hero was a transparent publicity stunt that was eventually undone when Parallax was retconned into an evil being that had possessed Hal. Well, at least now we can kinda pretend like it never even happened.

#8: HYDRA Marketing


Really, it’s hard to fathom how many people had to say “yes” to this idea to allow it to happen, but happen it did. In the lead-up to Marvel’s “Secret Empire,” the company decided to use a HYDRA takeover as a marketing gimmick. Websites and stores were encouraged to use the organization’s logo to advertise the upcoming book. Many stores, obviously, refused. Maybe using a fictional Nazi-affiliated terrorist group’s logo to advertise their big yearly event wasn’t the smartest idea Marvel has had recently, but you have to give them credit for fully committing to this thing. Well, until the backlash hit.

#7: Harley Quinn’s Bathtub Suicide


In 2013, DC had the seemingly innocent idea of throwing a contest for artists that would give them an opportunity to draw a page for an upcoming issue of “Suicide Squad.” The page was a strange choice to offer to aspiring artists, depicting a series of Harley Quinn suicide fantasies, including a particularly controversial bathtub scene. The contest drew outrage both for its flippant depiction of suicide as well as the oversexualization of Harley Quinn. DC quickly walked the contest back, using the book’s normal artist and replacing the bathtub panel with Harley riding a large rocket. Okay then.

#6: The New 52


In 2011, DC introduced a line-wide reboot of all its titles and continuity, known as the “New 52.” The relaunch was intended to shed the company’s dense continuity to allow for new readers to jump in without worry. Over its 5-year lifespan, the “New 52” saw varying degrees of success, but the majority of the comic fanbase was frustrated with the new direction. In 2016, DC announced, “Rebirth,” which would undo the changes of the “New 52” and restore many elements of DC’s old continuity. “Rebirth” has helped DC garner positive word of mouth across the industry, something that the “New 52” was never able to do as a whole.

#5: The Clone Saga


Fondly remembered by some and absolutely hated by others, the infamous Clone Saga lasted over 2 years, dominating pretty much every Spider-Man comic between late 1994 to 1996. The storyline involved a number of Spidey clones and became massively convoluted and bloated over the course of its publication. Marvel developed the concept in an attempt to match the success of DC’s big crossover events, notably that major death we mentioned earlier. Don’t worry, we’ll get to it. Eventually, the saga stumbled to the finish line with the death of Aunt May and one of Peter’s clones taking over as the new Spider-Man before all was reversed to the status quo.

#4: Marvel's Yearly Relaunch


Seriously? Over the past few years, Marvel has made a habit of rebooting their entire publishing lineup. After 2010’s “Marvel NOW!” initiative, the company has done a soft reboot in every year since 2015, under titles like “All-New, All-Different.” Companies use reboots like these to attract new customers, but it seems Marvel is pushing away its hardcore fans with the constant shake-ups and instability. Marvel, we’re begging you to stop this madness. 2017’s “Legacy” took a cue from DC’s “Rebirth” in trying to reaffirm fans appreciation for history and continuity, but was soon replaced by 2018’s “A Fresh Start.”

#3: Captain America as a Member of Hydra


This one caused quite a stir back in 2016 when it was revealed that Captain America was, in fact, a member of HYDRA. Immediately upon the twist’s publication, massive backlash online was directed towards Marvel and writer Nick Spencer for what was deemed as a betrayal of the characters core tenets and what Steve Rogers represented in the fight against fascism. Marvel committed to the decision and delivered a story in “Secret Empire” that was actually pretty good and explained Cap’s changed history. Regardless, the event was a PR nightmare for the company and is something they’re clearly eager to move on from.

#2: The Death of Superman


It’s not that “The Death of Superman” is a bad story, necessarily. It has its ups and downs. This one is more of a decision that backfired on fans. After the massively successful sales numbers of “The Death of Superman,” giant annual or semi-annual event comics became an industry trend that continues to this day. In addition to that, ever since Clark Kent’s so-called death, heroes from both DC and Marvel have been killed off in an attempt to entice readers into buying the book. It’s a cheap cash grab that all stems from this early 90s blockbuster.

#1: One More Day


The brainchild of artist and then-editor-in-chief Joe Quesada, 2007’s “One More Day” was a story written around the decision to end Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson’s longtime marriage, as well as several other planned retcons. In order to save Aunt May’s life from a fatal gunshot wound, Peter makes a deal with the devil Mephisto to save Aunt May in return for his marriage to MJ. The decision was immediately met with passionate resistance from fans. Despite this, Marvel stuck to their guns, and the marriage remains undone to this day. Recently, writer Nick Spencer reignited Peter and Mary Jane’s relationship, giving fans hope for the couple once again.
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